On top of the Hex, and looking a sure bet for a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it may seem like this isn’t time for the United States men’s national team to make changes to their soccer team. Things are finally starting to click after two rocky years under Jurgen Klinsmann – leaders have emerged, a captain has been named, and a goal-scorer has been rediscovered.
So why is it time to change things? The USA need all the talent they can get.
Things are going well right now in World Cup qualifying, and although it’s debatable how impressive a sweep of Jamaica, Panama and Honduras is, the impressiveness of this team’s resiliency is not up for debate. When acrimony or injustice or failure strike, the US are at their best.
After a Brian Straus article filled with anonymous quotes from inside the US camp slammed Klinsmann, the US tuned the mayhem out and qualified for the Hex. After they lost their first game of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying in Honduras, the US picked themselves up and haven’t lost in World Cup qualifying since. After they were thrashed by Belgium at the beginning of an incredibly important stretch of games, Klinsmann’s side shrugged off the critics, beat a Germany B team, and won three qualifiers in a row.
The USA have righted the ship many times under Klinsmann, but it’s certainly a ship with holes in it, and when righting the ship, the US have gotten a fair bit of luck. If Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund don’t make the Champions League Final and Germany brings their A team to play the US, do the Americans win and gain crucial confidence?
If Brad Evans doesn’t score an improbable stoppage time goal in Kingston, how embarrassing does a draw with lowly Jamaica look? If Jozy Altidore doesn’t remember how to score for his country again, where is this team? What if the US’s opponents in the Hexagonal weren’t falling apart?
What if Mexico was still a force to be reckoned with, or Honduras didn’t pull a disappearing act? The US should automatically qualify from the region by default with all the struggles their opponents have had. Absolutely, credit to the Yanks for staying steady, but the US have had a lot of luck. A nice winning streak and a place at the top of the Hex shouldn’t mask the problems with Klinsmann’s team.